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What Is a Flat White Coffee Drink & How It Differs From Other Drinks

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A flat white is a strong coffee drink with a velvety texture that combines espresso shots with steamed milk. Read on to learn more about this smooth-tasting drink.

I’m someone who wants to know everything about all the different types of espresso drinks. That inspired me to write this guide about flat whites.

Here’s what I’ll cover in this guide:

Keep reading to learn more.

Key Takeaways

  • A flat white is espresso topped with steamed milk.
  • Australia & New Zealand claim to have invented the drink.
  • There aren’t any variations other than Ristretto Shot Flat White.
  • It’s not common to find these at coffee shops.

What Is a Flat White?


TasteRich & creamy
AromaRoasted espresso & creamy milk
Mouth feelSmooth
Caffeine level205+ mg
PronunciationFlat white

A flat white espresso drink is a beverage made with a couple shots of espresso topped with steamed milk (microfoam).

Make a flat white espresso drink by steaming a small amount of milk until it is velvety and has a microfoam texture. Then, pour the milk over a double shot (doppio) of espresso, creating a layered drink with a rich coffee flavor and a creamy texture.

Are there other types of flat white drinks? Let’s see.

Variations of the Flat White

One variation of flat white that I could find is a Ristretto Shot Flat White. It’s a drink that uses a ristretto (concentrated) espresso shot instead of a regular espresso shot for a bolder flavor.

The Breve Flat White is the only other one, which uses half-and-half milk instead of whole milk. This replacement results in a creamier and richer-tasting drink.

Otherwise, you could add flavored syrups such as vanilla, hazelnut, and caramel to your drink for a sweeter-tasting drink.

Now that you know the few variations available, learn how to make a flat white.

How to Make a Flat White

What a flat white is made of:

Time to make: 2-3 min.

Steps to take

  • Steam the milk until it is velvety & has a microfoam texture.
  • Pour the espresso into the cup.
  • Hold the cup at an angle and slowly pour the steamed milk into the cup, creating a thin layer of microfoam on top.

What’s the history like of this powerful beverage?

History of the Flat White

Australia and New Zealand claim to have been the inventors of the flat white beverage. There’s no consensus as to who the true inventor is.

Coffee shops in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne in Australia have served the drink since the 1980s [1]. However, baristas in Wellington, New Zealand claimed to have “perfected” the flat white. They also claim that it was a “failed cappuccino.”


New Zealand also claims that 2 baristas in the Cafe DKD, Derek Ahhler and Derek Townsend created the first flat white to provide an alternative to lattes. Then another claim states that Craig miller of Auckland, New Zealand invented the flat white in the mid-1980s.

The Kiwis (New Zealand folks) and Australians imported the flat white to London in 2005 during the opening of the Flat White cafe.

Come 2015, Starbucks around the world added flat whites to their menus.

Complicated history aside, let’s see whether a flat white differs from other espresso drinks.

Flat White vs. Other Espresso-Based Drinks

Compare flat whites to other espresso-based drinks like:

DrinkRatioCaffeine Content *
Flat White1:2; steamed milk-coffee205+ mg
Cortado1:1; espresso-foamed milk128 mg
White CoffeeWhite coffee240–280 mg
Latte1:3; espresso-steamed milk63–175 mg
Cappuccino1:1:1; espresso-steamed milk-foamed milk63–120 mg
Americano1:1; Espresso-hot water63–154 mg
Macchiato1:2; frothed milk-espresso63–90 mg

* Caffeine content varies depending on factors such as bean type, roast level, and preparation method.

The following sections will compare the foam, flavor, and texture of all the drinks mentioned above versus flat whites.

1. Flat White vs. Cortado

  • Foam: Cortado has much more foam.
  • Flavor: Cortado has a stronger flavor.
  • Texture: Cortado is thicker than flat whites.

A cortado espresso drink has equal parts espresso and steamed milk.

The flat white has a more robust coffee flavor and a thinner consistency. The cortado has a milder coffee flavor and a creamier consistency.

We’re going to move away from espresso drinks into another coffee beverage you may confuse flat whites with.

2. Flat White vs. White Coffee

  • Foam: Neither have much foam.
  • Flavor: White coffee has a more milky flavor.
  • Texture: White coffee is creamier, while flat white is more velvety.

A white coffee is a less concentrated coffee drink with a more balanced flavor and a creamier texture. It doesn’t have espresso.

Which drink is best for you depends on your personal preferences. If you prefer a stronger coffee flavor, then a flat white is a good choice. If you prefer a more balanced flavor, then a white coffee works best.

Do you want a drink that isn’t intense? Keep reading.

3. Flat White vs. Latte

  • Foam: Latte has more foam.
  • Flavor: Latte has a milder taste.
  • Texture: Latte is silky, while flat white is full-bodied.

The main difference between a flat white and a latte is the ratio of milk to coffee and the type of foam. A flat white has a higher ratio of coffee to milk and a thinner layer of microfoam. A latte has a lower ratio of coffee to milk and a thicker layer of foamed milk.

This gives the flat white a stronger coffee flavor and a more velvety texture, while the latte has a milder coffee flavor and a creamier texture.

The next drink uses more milk.

4. Flat White vs. Cappuccino

  • Foam: Cappuccinos have foam, flat whites don’t.
  • Flavor: Both have strong flavors, but cappuccino is richer.
  • Texture: Cappuccinos are creamier.

Flat whites have a higher ratio of espresso to milk than cappuccinos, and the steamed milk is microfoamed, which gives it a velvety texture. Flat whites also typically come in smaller cups than cappuccinos.

Cappuccinos have a more even ratio of espresso to milk, and the steamed milk is foamed to a slightly thicker consistency than flat whites.

The former is a good choice for people who like a strong espresso flavor with a hint of sweetness. The latter works best for folks wanting a more balanced flavor between espresso and milk.

5. Flat White vs. Americano

  • Foam: Neither have foam.
  • Flavor: Flat whites have a rich flavor; Americanos have a strong flavor.
  • Texture: Americano has a watery texture while flat whites are creamy.

Americanos are made with espresso and hot water, and they have a more diluted flavor than flat whites. The coffee flavor is still strong, but it is not as intense. Americanos are typically served in larger cups, and they are a good choice for people who prefer a less intense coffee flavor.

You’ll want an Americano if you want a watered down, yet potent drink.

6. Flat White vs. Macchiato

  • Foam: Macchiatos have more foam.
  • Flavor: Flat whites have a stronger flavor.
  • Texture: Macchiatos are creamier.

A flat white has a higher ratio of espresso to milk, and the microfoam is a finer, more velvety texture. A macchiato is a coffee drink made with espresso and a small amount of steamed milk. It is typically served in a glass, with milk layered on top of the espresso.

Macchiatos are a good choice for people who enjoy a more balanced coffee flavor with a lighter texture. They are also a good choice for people who are looking for a coffee drink with less caffeine than a latte or flat white.

Still want a flat white over every other drink mentioned? Let’s figure out where to get one.

Where to Get a Flat White

I’ve only found flat white coffee drinks at Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and McDonald’s. However, you’re likely to find them at any coffee stand, coffee shop, or cafe that isn’t a chain restaurant.

Availability of flat white drinks may vary at the aforementioned chain restaurants. For instance, a McDonald’s in your country or city may not serve flat whites.

FAQs for Flat Whites

Keep reading to find frequently asked questions about flat white espresso drinks.

What Is a Flat White Called in America?

Americans call a flat white the same name as it’s called elsewhere in the world. A flat white.

Wrapping Up

A flat white drink combines espresso shots with steamed milk. But not as much milk as a latte. Hence, why this drink stands out.

Want to learn more about other espresso-based drinks? Check out a massive guide we wrote.

Photo of author


Tim Lee is, as you might have guessed the founder of He is a former barista and a professional web publisher. He has now combined his knowledge and expertise in both subjects to create
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